Jewish World Review Jan. 29, 2002 / 16 Shevat, 5762
Robert L. Haught
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- AS Congress returns to work on the budget, investigations and other fun stuff, it's time to take stock on how the government is running. Here's another in a series of reports on "Your Tax Dollars At Work":
Easing the strain on prune farmers. If you ever get that feeling of being too full, you can sympathize with the prune industry. Farmers in California, where most of the prunes are produced, started the current crop year with 100,000 tons in storage, or about 60,000 tons too much to keep prices up. Government agencies are trying their best to give farmers relief. First the Food and Drug Administration gave the industry permission to change the name of its product to "dried plums," to appeal to a younger customer group. Now the Agricultural Marketing Service is paying California growers $17 million to take trees out of production. Well, we wouldn't want the prune market to dry up.
A program to eliminate red ink. Not meaning to needle California too much, but Rep. Lois Capps, a Democrat from that state, asked for it. She managed to get $50,000 to fund a tattoo- removal program in her district. She issued an explanatory news release: "People with visible, inappropriate tattoos often encounter negative attitudes, stereotyping and discrimination, resulting in unemployment, underemployment or the inability to move forward in their careers," she said. "This program supports people who are trying to make a change in their lives by removing those negative marks of distinction." But to prohibit getting the tattoos in the first place would be a violation of civil rights, wouldn't it?
An answer right under our nose. Cost estimates weren't given, but a new government study points to a new source of energy that is cheap and plentiful -- cow manure. Earlier, the government had funded research to measure methane gas emissions from cows. The new study, titled "Demonstration of Biogas Production Using Low- Moisture-Content Beef Cattle Manure," is an example of turning waste into a productive endeavor. That's a refreshing reversal of bureaucratic behavior.
Big stink at the Pentagon. Ever on the alert for new weapons to use against terrorists and other enemies, the Defense Department has discovered how to make the world's most powerful stink bomb. In a government-funded project, researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia perfected a malodorous formula after extensive testing. The research team analyzed smells ranging from vomit and burning hair to rotting garbage and human waste.
One for the birds. The National Institute of Drug Abuse has made a grant of $480,000 to a University of Kentucky professor to investigate the effects of cocaine on the behavior of quails. Chana Akins, an associate professor of psychology, is conducting a four-year study which already has produced eye-opening results. "Our findings show that quails find cocaine rewarding, and that it appears to activate their brains in the same way it activates mammals." In other words, drugs are appealing to birdbrains.
Toward a user-friendly bureaucracy. Input, a marketing services firm, reports
the federal government will more than double its spending on customer
relations by 2006. Expenditures are projected to increase from $233 million
in fiscal year 2001 to $522 million in fiscal year 2006. One of the largest
increases (from $93 million to $242 million) will occur in the Treasury
Department, home to the Internal Revenue Service. Has anybody figured out
that maybe the best kind of customer relations would be lowering
01/09/02: While Congress is away, look at the laws it has made